Mariah Carey

Emancipation, my ass. Rather than letting their client display her distinctiveness, the members of the Carey Career Resurrection Braintrust have practically erased any individuality she had left. On Mimi's cover, she looks less like a person than a hood ornament or a carving on the prow of a ship, and most of the music is just as lifeless.

Carey still has a freakish voice, as she proves with a few Minnie Ripperton goblet-shatterers on "Circles." Trouble is, she's repeatedly placed in settings so generic that she could be practically any young chanteuse on the make. Snoop Dogg's here (when isn't he?), as is Nelly, whose duet with Carey on "To the Floor" is strongly reminiscent of his team-up with Christina Aguilera for "Tilt Ya Head Back," but considerably lamer. (Carey sounds as if she's imitating a vocalist, Xtina, who started out aping her.) Even more telling is "I Wish You Knew," in which Carey pretends to bare her heart in a spoken segment delivered against the backdrop of simulated crowd noise. Apparently, the only people responding to Carey these days are pre-recorded. If that's freedom, you can have it.

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Michael Roberts
Contact: Michael Roberts